April 11, 2012
Lamb leaves UConn for NBA
By Frank Zicarelli, QMI Agency
Now that the madness has been put to bed, sanity has returned to the world of hoops, even if it is just for the time being.
In the high-stakes business that is the NBA, it’s in the aftermath of the NCAA tournament when draft boards are being pieced together, prospects identified and potential assets coveted to either impact a roster immediately or turn into a tool in a trade scenario.
At this stage of a long process characterized by misinformation and misdirection, the more underclassmen declare for the June draft, the more NBA executives are left salivating at the chances of reshaping a lineup.
Unlike last season when the spectre of a labour stoppage caused many to rethink their future, kids have been jumping at the chance to chase their hoops dream and cash in on the guaranteed money that awaits every first-round selection.
Whether the tears are real or scripted, regardless of the amount of family members in attendance, no matter what prepared statement is offered by a program, it’s of little meaning when the ultimate goal is play at the highest level, in most cases a feat only achieved through the draft.
On Tuesday, it was Jeremy Lamb’s turn to turn pro, so to speak, a projected lottery pick who, in reality, had no intention of returning to UConn after the NCAA told the Huskies to get their academic house in order.
In most years, UConn’s win total is greater than the combined academic standing of the players, a development that forced the NCAA to outlaw the program from appearing in any post-season action.
Lamb had a chance to go pro last year following UConn’s run to the title, sparked by eventual first-round pick Kemba Walker.
Only in time will it be known whether Lamb made the right choice to enter this year, the ultimate measuring stick revealed when his name gets called at which slot.
“It was a difficult decision, but after much prayer and discussion with my parents, I feel that it’s in the best interest of me and my family to declare myself eligible for the upcoming NBA draft and pursue my dream of playing professional basketball,” Lamb said. “I have very much enjoyed my two years at UConn, especially getting to experience one of the greatest feelings that a college player can have, winning the national championship.”
A 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Lamb averaged 17.7 points and 4.9 rebounds.
Some mock drafts have Lamb linked with the Raptors, which seems a stretch given Toronto’s need, among other issues, at small forward.
Ideally, the losing continues in Raptorland, the ping-pong balls fall their way and either Harrison Barnes or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist become available.
Regardless, having the likes of Lamb and Thomas Robinson, who declared his intentions on Monday, provides the draft with depth and options teams such as the Raptors can use in abundance.
Lamb’s collegiate teammate, Andre Drummond, is expected to declare as early as Wednesday, making a decision that’s as obvious as the attention he’ll receive by NBA teams looking for centre.
Anthony Davis remains the consensus No. 1 pick, his stock solidified after helping Kentucky to its NCAA title.
NICHOLSON HIRES AN AGENT
Andrew Nicholson made such a splash late in his senior season that many peg this Mississauga kid as a late first-round pick in the June draft.
And now that Nicholson has a bona fide agent in Mark Bartlestein, there’s always the chance of moving up in draft boards.
In the NBA, having the right agent is just as important as having a jump shot or a wing span that will gain notoriety.
In Bartlestein, Nicholson, who helped lead St. Bonaventure to its first NCAA tournament appearance in 12 years, has well-respected and well-connected representative whose company, Chicago-based Priority Sports & Entertainment, deals with many NBA ballers, including Raptors point guard Jose Calderon.
Nicholson will not take part in this week’s Portsmouth Invitational in Virginia, which brings together the nation’s senior graduating class, many whom are not expected to be drafted.
A honorable mention All-American by The Associated Press, Nicholson was on the NBA radar the moment he posted a 26-point, 14-rebound night in the Atlantic 10 final against Xavier, throwing in eight blocks in the Bonnies win.
Nicholson is on track to graduate with a degree in physics next month.
COULD JONAS PLAY IN VEGAS?
The unveiling of Jonas Valanciunas to the North American basketball market may be ushered in the land of slot machines, strip clubs and escorts.
And if you think about it, what better way for a kid with so much upside than to be introduced to Las Vegas and all the perils that exist as a way to educate oneself on life in the NBA.
So much will depend on how Lithuania does on its road to the London Olympics, but if the basketball-crazed nation fails to qualify, then expect Valanciunas to represent the Raptors in Vegas when the summer league tips off July 13.
If Lithuania qualifies, last year’s fifth-overall pick will resume his training with the national team and will miss summer league, which returns to Sin City after operations were suspended last year in the wake of the NBA’s labour unrest.
Also expect this year’s lottery pick by Toronto to show up in Vegas, where summer league suddenly has the potential to be a must-see event.